Marching band brings tradition and joy to Overture Hall

“Our goal is to have the audience on their feet within five minutes of the show’s start,” said Don Roberts, president, CEO and director of Drumline Live, when previewing the show. 

His goal was achieved when Drumline Live performed on Overture Hall stage on Friday, Jan. 5 to an enthusiastic sold-out audience. 

Roberts, who co-founded Drumline Live in 2008, describes the band as “the most exciting show on stage,” equating it to a rollercoaster ride.

“This high-energy show takes you up, down and all around,” he said. “It touches every emotion in the body.”

A high school band director in Atlanta, Roberts was approached by Hollywood to serve as a chief band consultant for the Twentieth Century Fox hit movie “Drumline,” released in 2002. The movie took the Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) marching band tradition to the big screen. 

Afterward, Roberts decided to take the marching band from the big screen to the stage. It took about five years for his idea to come to fruition. 

Based in Atlanta, Drumline Live performs 25-30 times a year—on stages, on television, in movies and at theme parks and sporting events. With riveting rhythms, bold beats and ear-grabbing energy, this stage show is a synchronized musical showcase of the HBCU experience. Incorporating original compositions and soul-infused interpretations of Top 40 hits, performances range from colorful, choreographed routines to heavy doses of drum riffs and cadences. 

Drumline Live performed with Beyoncé at Coachella in 2018. They’ve also been featured in the 2017 BET movie “The Yard,” the VH-1 and Fox Television Studios movie “Drumline: A New Beat” and in Eddie Murphy’s 2023 holiday movie, “Candy Cane Lane.”

“Our cast members are multi-talented, playing multiple instruments, singing and dancing,” said Roberts. “They are outstanding musicians, some of the most talented young people in the world.”

Coley Gilchrist, a cast member and dance captain since 2018, has been performing and singing since childhood. She loves entertaining crowds with Drumline Live, bringing people together through music. 

“I love showing others that your musical passion can be your career,” she said. “There are musical choices beyond the HBCU marching band, opportunities to mix different techniques, training and experience. Plus, Drumline Live, is a chance to showcase African American culture.”

Roberts finds his greatest joy in seeing the reactions of audiences from city to city—especially everybody leaving with a smile on their face as they did after the show at Overture last month.